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Luxury small ship river cruises in Asia



Oct 2017


I am writing to thank you all for making my recent cruise from Luang Prabang to Jinghong such an enjoyable and memorable experience.

As you know this was not my first Pandaw cruise and I loved it as usual. All the wonderful features that make a Pandaw cruise so special were well and truly in evidence while I was with you. The great food, the impeccable service from the bar and dining staff, the skillful abilities of the young sailors at clearing a path for us through the jungle followed by their supporting hands as we climbed up the often slippery and steep riverbanks was very much appreciated by all of us. The quality of the food is such that I never have to worry about stomach problems. Most of all the Pandaw ambience is so unique.

It was a pity that you had to leave us Saroeung. Bee did a great job but you were still missed. However, Brian said that you would soon be back.

What a fantastic river the Mekong is! Despite what I’d read about it, I was still amazed at the speed, the water level, the steepness of the mountains rising directly out of the river, the noise and turmoil we saw and felt was incredible. Captain Houmphanh you did a terrific job, even providing us with excitement along the way when we ran into the jungle one night. It was a true expedition.

We are all looking forward to hearing from Somphet about that little boy who had the sight problem. It will be great if we can help him.

As always, I’ve been very restless since I returned home, so much so that I’ve booked another cruise in Burma for a week next month!

So thanks again to you and all those friendly, smiling, professional people who make up the crew of Laos Pandaw.

Jul 2017


Well, what a trip – the Angkor Pandaw ship is a treat to travel on; from the fantastic limestone structures of Halong Bay to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, there was always something wonderful to see or do. The decision of Pandaw to spend more time in Halong Bay than in the past is a big plus. The captain and his crew were great, helping us on and off the ship, up muddy and slippery banks which was very helpful - having cold water on hand on trips to meeting us back on board with cold towels and drinks.

The ship itself was fantastic, the teak timber and brass looks great. The rooms are big enough for a ten day trip with excellent air-con in both the rooms and the restaurant. As this was the first trip of the season, there were a few teething issues from the kitchen and restaurant, but overall the food was very good. Our two female stewards and barman were very good and attentive. The beer temperature could be two degrees colder, so you don’t have to drink it so quickly haha!

Tifo our guide was good at this job, Peter our Purser is good at his job too but needs to slow down when speaking when nervous. Some suggestions for future trips – if a spare room upstairs was not in use, it could be used as a bathroom during the day, as people with mobility issues don’t have to use the stairs, and one of the lounges could be used in the air-con restaurant. Overall, a very enjoyable cruise.

Apr 2017


Wendy Evans, dedicated Pandaw fan and traveler, has provided this outstanding account of her recent expedition on board RV Angkor Pandaw sailing the Red River and Halong Bay. Wendy has perfectly captured the many contrasts to be enjoyed along this route.


Apr 2017


This was my third Pandaw cruise so you could say that I am a fan! The staff are all exceptional and the whole trip is so well organised and the food is simply wonderful, such a relaxing trip. Having travelled with Pandaw it has really spoilt me for anything else so I will be hoping for trip number 4 before too long.

Isobel Dexter

Mar 2017


We participate on a ship-cruise on the red river in Vietnam from 02-05-2017 - 02-15-2017. The name of the ship was RV Angcor Pandaw. The ship and the crew were excellent. We enjoy all very much. In the brochure of our travel-agency was announced that the trip goes also in the part of the nothern red river. Unfortunately we were not there. But the other excursion destinations were also very interesting.

I have made a little film from our journey;


Gerhard Ohly, Germany

Jan 2017


The cruise itself and the timing in November were perfect. I think all the guests were pleased with the comfort of the "new" Laos Pandaw and its cabins. The crew was always extremely attentive and nice. The cruise director, the bar chef and the purser I found on very good form from the beginning and the captain was a real gem. He certainly knew his job and was always good spirited and (mostly always) relaxed, often funny. Compared with the Vietnam/Cambodia and the Burma cruises this one on the Upper Mekong was truly spectacular. The itinerary was well chosen, the BBQ on a river bank with folks from the above village and the floating of fire lanterns was a highlight. So, as a résumé, I really did like this cruise.


Jan 2017


The Irrawaddy River flows through Myanmar from north to south for a distance of some 2170 km (1348 mi). It is the country’s most important waterway and one of the world’s great rivers. It is wide, shallow, and treacherous to navigate. It is also “The Road to Mandalay,” an epithet bestowed by Rudyard Kipling, poet and noted mad Englishman. At one time The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC) operated several hundred vessels on the river, the largest fleet of riverboats in the world. Many of these came from Scotland, where they were built, then disassembled and shipped to Burma (a riverboat with a three-foot draft is not meant for the open sea), and subsequently reassembled in Rangoon. The fleet moved freight, primarily natural resources from the north and manufactured goods from the south, as well as passengers intent on business and tourism. Sadly, the flotilla was largely scuttled in 1943 in order to keep the boats out of the hands of the Japanese army. But the river, and commerce, flowed on.

Since A.J. and I had never been on a river excursion, we decided to take a cruise on the mighty Irrawaddy to see Mandalay and Bagan. It was pretty epic. We were joined by our friend H, who has visited us twice before in exotic locales.

We spent seven nights aboard a faithful reproduction of the IFC P.S. (Packet Steamer) Kalaw, a well-appointed and very comfortable boat. Passengers came and went and we averaged a small but convivial company of 14 along with a crew compliment of about the same. The staff could not have been nicer, and both our Purser and Tour Guide kept us well informed and squared away. That said, cue the highlight reel.

Architecture - A few definitions are in order. Temple: A place of worship for the followers of Buddhism. (Always remove your shoes.) Pagoda: Buddhist temple, typically in the form of a multi-tiered tower. Stupa: A dome-shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine. (One cannot actually enter a stupa.) In central Myanmar, these structures number in the thousands and we visited a slew of them in Mandalay, Mingun, Sagaing, Innwa (home of the world famous U Bein footbridge), Pakokku, and especially...

Bagan - A 42 sq km World Heritage Site and home to roughly 3,000 monuments, some of which, having recently suffered earthquake damage, are wreathed in elaborate bamboo scaffolding while being repaired. Bagan is an Angkor Wat-caliber tourist destination and is lousy with gringos, especially at sunset. But it is worth the hassle. Seriously, check out the photos.

Commerce - We visited two pottery villages (glazed and terracotta), a stone carver’s street, a goldsmith shop, a cheroot factory, a silk weaving workshop, and several local markets. And, as part of the price of admission, we were besieged by hawkers and hustled, sometimes successfully, at every turn.

Mandalay Pagan Packet River Cruise

Pandaw, the cruise ship company, supports a number of schools in the area. We visited a couple of them as well as a The Mingun Buddhist Home for the Aged. Donate some money, make some merit. That’s the deal.

Transport - Besides the Kalaw (which stranded on a sandbar only once), we got about by bus, truck, ferry, tuk-tuk (a rickshaw pulled by a motorbike), rowboat, and horse cart (less fun than you might imagine).

Shipboard Life - In addition to three squares a day (the food was outstanding), we also were treated to a variety of presentations, including: lectures on Burmese customs and history; cooking, dressing, and make-up demonstrations; Burmese dance and puppet shows; and movies. Oh yes, and cocktail hour every evening before dinner. Very civilized!

The River - But as wonderful as the sightseeing and other activities were, what Anne and I enjoyed most was sitting on deck while the Kalaw was underway, catching the breeze, and watching scenes, some of which would have been familiar a century ago, flow by. We felt like we too had played our small part in the story of the Irrawaddy.


Dec 2016


My husband and I travelled downstream on the Mekong Pandaw, departing Siem Reap on 12 November.

As soon as we stepped on board we both felt the best part of the cruise was going to be the vessel. However, we were not quite correct, because the crew and the service we received were exceptional as well. The Mekong Pandaw is the real lady of the Mekong and even when we passed other Pandaw ships from time to time, we were happy that she was ours!

The food service was fabulous with a wide choice of both Asian and western dishes, and the wine package turned out to be such a good idea that we would recommend it to others. Our fellow guests were from the UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and a small group of Americans joined the ship at Phnom Penh. The sun deck, which stretched the entire length of the ship was a wonderful place to relax, catch a cool breeze and enjoy a pre-dinner drink (and an after dinner one as well).

Pandaw provided one Cambodian guide, Som, and two Vietnamese guides, Wang and Giang and the changeover took place when we crossed the border into Vietnam. They were all excellent guides who imparted a great deal of knowledge about their respective countries and made us feel that our visit to their part of the world was appreciated, especially in Cambodia where the tourist dollar certainly assists some of the local people. The excursions were interesting, fun and quite different, and usually happened twice a day. The ability of the ship to dock right on the shore and put down a gangplank was a terrific way to start any excursion.

Neville & Jill Pinkham Classic Mekong river cruise photos

We can't speak highly enough of the crew, most of whom seemed to multi-task! The shoe cleaning, cold towel, hand sanitiser and welcome back drinks after each excursion were great, and at night in the dining room and at the bar their friendly faces made dining a pleasure. The local entertainment on board, especially the children's performances, were very enthusiastic.

Last but not least, our beautiful cabin which was spotlessly clean, became a little oasis where we could cool down, have a lovely hot shower, and at the end of the day provided us with a wonderful soft bed to collapse into - being a tourist is hard work. A note here; there is a handy cupboard under the bed for your suitcase, and the dimensions of our bags were 65 x 45 x 25 cm and they fit quite well, but any case much larger would have a problem being stowed.

Well done Pandaw - we would highly recommend this voyage to any traveller as the best river cruise to get a true feel for luxury and adventure - what more could you ask for.

Neville & Jill Pinkham
Sydney, Australia

Jan 2016


Dear Mr Strachan,

I have recently returned from a trip on RV Kalaw, from Bagan to Mandalay. As you ask for some feedback, here it is.

The ship is beautiful, well fitted-out and the shower/bathroom fittings are very up to date. All the wood and brass are cared for and everything gleams.

The crew are just magnificent. Purser Zaw made it his business to be sure everyone was being looked after, always with a smile. The "non-hotel" staff (i.e. the captain and his crew) didn't speak as much English as the "hotel" staff, but were nevertheless helpful and welcoming: we had a visit to the bridge when the echo sounder was in progress - one of the crew with his pole, calling off the marks. Everyone was kind and seemed happy to be of service, and this was most notable when we embarked or disembarked along the way. I made the mistake of asking to hold back on one return so that I could photograph behind the local pagoda, not realising that I would be keeping seven staff waiting to welcome me back on board. Most embarrassing!

I gather that our guide, San, was not a crew member but a freelance, but I urge you to keep his services as long as possible - he made the whole experience wonderful, was very knowledgeable and knew how to share that knowledge without overwhelming us. With a small group like ours (23 passengers) he took the trouble to let each of us do some of the things not on the programme: I particularly wanted to photograph sunrise in Bagan from a temple terrace, and he personally rose early to take me to a great spot.

I'm afraid I can't think of a single complaint about Pandaw, except that I had to leave and come home.

Best wishes
Margaret Berry

Mar 2015


Just back from another wonderful Pandaw cruise this time from Bagan to Mandalay.  The same wonderful atmosphere as previously with even better food and delightful staff.  I have already been to Cambodia/Vietnam and India and have just booked to go to Laos next year.   Look forward to more cruises!  Makes a great change from the dreary Edinburgh weather in February.  Best wishes Nicola Lowe.

Response from Pandaw

Thanks for letting me know all went well and am glad that Pagan to Mandalay was as good as the Mekong. Let's hope the Laos trip lives up to expectations. Being a new expedition it may be a bit rough at the edges on the service side but I promise it will not be without lots of excitement being a much smaller ship going through some wild areas.